Washington, DC – Consumer Watchdog today took Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to task today over remarks made to The Washington Post in which he claimed Google should not be the subject of antitrust review because its services are "free" and made derogatory remarks about government officials being slow, backward and greedy.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group said Schmidt should be recalled to testify by the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee.
"It's rare that a multi-billionaire executive would in effect publicly call our elected and appointed government officials a group of backward, money-grubbing morons who don't have the right or the knowledge to regulate your company," Consumer Watchdog's President Jamie Court and Privacy Project Director John Simpson wrote to Schmidt in a letter they also sent to U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.
Read the letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrschmidt100511.pdf
The consumer advocates wrote: "The arrogance you exhibited toward government in the interview, just a week after your far more reverential and less forthcoming testimony before the U.S. Senate, cannot be ignored. You should be recalled to the Antitrust Committee to explain your remarks…
"The fact is, Google's services are not free. The price of using Google services – and of not using Google services but merely visiting Internet sites in your advertising network or those equipped with Google analytics – is that information about us is collected and stored without our consent. The same is true for Android mobile phones. Google then sells access to users to corporate advertisers of all stripes, regardless of whether we wanted to share that information or whether we want Google to market us. Google's services will never be free until Google agrees that its users have the right to choose not to give up their personal information as the cost of using those services, visiting the Internet or activating their mobile phones.
"When Google finally respects the "Do Not Track Me" signal sent by the other three major Internet browsers, and when Google's Chrome browser offers a "Do Not Track Me" option that is respected by Google, then you can argue Google's services are free. Until then, there should be little doubt that Google users' information is Google's true product, and the price it gets from advertisers for access to us is 96% of its total revenue – advertising income….
"In respect to your view of government, while you may believe it moves nine times slower than your engineers, its job is to conserve the values at the bedrock of our nation – personal freedom, the pursuit of happiness, privacy, etc. The fact is Google engineers move so quickly that they disregard our ethical customs, rules of law and personal freedoms like privacy.
The advocates pointed out three recent scandals to prove their point:
"Exhibit A: Google's Street View cars collected personal data from hundreds of millions of private Wi-Fi networks around the world, under a technology Google tried to patent, even though you have claimed the gathering of such information was inadvertent. This is the largest wiretapping scandal in world history. Google engineers moved TOO quickly.
"Exhibit B: Google paid half a billion dollars to settle criminal charges of advertising counterfeit drugs and illegal websites. The U.S. Attorney who handled the case said there was no question that Google's founder and current CEO Larry Page knew that Google was making money this way. We recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to probe deceptive and predatory mortgage modification and other lending advertisements offered by Google under the belief that Page knows about these too and Google moved TOO quickly.
"Exhibit C: Google's proposed book settlement with publishers to sell off the copyright rights of orphaned works holders and monopolize the resulting digital book library. The courts and Justice Department stopped Google from moving TOO quickly to run over the rights and privileges of authors."
Court and Simpson ended the letter by challenging Schmidt. "Are you prepared to return to Congress to offer this analysis directly to senators and representatives?
"How, for example, do you reconcile your low opinion of government with your aggressive effort to procure government contracts, even before Google has adequate systems to handle them, as in your pursuit of cloud computing contracts with the City of Los Angeles?
"Are you willing to make Google's services truly free, by not requiring that people pay you with their personal information and respecting a "Do Not Track" signal?"
The watchdogs noted that they were copying Senator Kohl on their letter and seeking his support to have Schmidt answer the questions under oath.
Read the Washington Post Interview here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/googles-eric-schmidt-expounds-on-his-senate-testimony/2011/09/30/gIQAPyVgCL_story.html
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